Sunday, August 03, 2014

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- John Millar writes that a determined effort to eliminate poverty would be a plus as a matter of mere public accounting (even without taking into account the improved lives of people avoiding the burden of poverty and income insecurity):
According to many studies, the Canadian poverty rate remains high. A recent OECD report shows that the very rich are taking an ever greater share of income. And a new study from three leading Canadian academics shows the rich obscure the total extent of their individual wealth through private companies, which means they are even richer than we thought.

Why should we care?

Because poverty and inequities hurt all of us in the long run. They erode social cohesion and create a burden on all taxpayers to pay for poverty reduction, health care services, unemployment, crime and homelessness.
Economists call what we need “a judicious redistributive approach” — that is, to raise government revenues via natural resources, taxes on the wealthy (income, estates, capital), regulation of offshore tax havens, and taxes on externalities, such as pollution, tobacco, alcohol and sugar. Governments should direct these revenues toward social investments such as income support, education, health care and infrastructure.

The business community also has a role. Businesses can help reduce poverty and inequities by paying their share of corporate taxes and having a triple bottom line — people, planet and profits — with a living wage for their staff, co-ownership and profit-sharing policies. The public as consumers can vote with their wallets and support such progressive businesses.

We are paying dearly for inaction. It would cost taxpayers less to eradicate poverty than to continue to pay for poverty related policing, corrections, housing and health care. In B.C., the estimated cost to implement a poverty reduction plan is $4 billion annually, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Right now, poverty costs the province up to $9.2 billion per year. Businesses and governments must take measures now to reduce poverty and inequities. It is time for concerned citizens to demand action.
- And Heather Digby Parton looks at Kansas' example as to what happens when corporate fundamentalists are able to get their way:
Unlike other Tea Party governors around the nation who have tried out a handful of their more extreme policies, Brownback went for broke. First he and his Koch brother allies (they are Kansas homeboys too, you'll recall) engineered a full-blown Tea Party takeover of the legislature with a well-funded primary strategy in 2012. It is now the most conservative legislature in the nation (and that's saying something considering how conservative Republican legislatures have become). In their minds, they are on a mission from God.
All of this was to be expected from Sam Brownback. But the results of his equally fundamentalist approach to economics has made a lot of people stand up and take notice. First and foremost, he slashed taxes to the bone. Well, not for everyone. The Center on Budget and policy priorities shows how that tax cut has been distributed...

Yes, the citizens of Kansas voted in this right-wing wrecking crew, but it must be remembered that there was a whole lot of help from the deep pockets of native sons Charles and David Koch, who wanted to demonstrate once and for all how well their libertarian economic ideas would work if only they were given a chance. Unlike their counterparts in DC, they didn't have to deal with a Democratic usurper in the Governor's Mansion—they had a true believer leading the way and full rein to see their ideology put to the test.

Their problem now is not because they are seen as the Party of No, or that they are using obstructionist tactics that offend the sensibilities of those who seek a nice bipartisan consensus. These Republicans got everything they wanted. Governor Brownback's approval rating is unsurprisingly in the dirt and he is in grave danger of losing re-election. Another nail in his coffin was pounded in last week when more than 100 current and former Republican officials endorsed Brownback's Democratic opponent, citing the failure of his economic program and the extreme nature of his overall agenda.

Just as other races in the country are reflecting the fight between the GOP establishment and the Tea Party wing, Kansas will be a battleground in the fall for the latest fight for the soul of the Republican Party. But this time it isn't just about race or the culture war or bad political tactics. This one is about all of that to be sure. But this time the Koch brothers' libertarian economic dream agenda has been enacted and it's on the ballot. If America wants to see what the country will look like if the Brownback wing of the GOP manages to get its way nationally, they only need to look at Sam Brownback's Kansas—a disaster on every level.
- Meanwhile, Normal Farrell catches the B.C. Libs backtracking on their previous faith-based assertions that liquid natural gas would mean permanent riches for the province, though Andrew Nikiforuk notes that they're still being entirely reality-averse in claiming that dangerous and untested extraction techniques will post no environmental risk whatsoever. And Tim Devaney exposes the pitiful tax rate paid by the U.S.' oil industry.

- Dean Beeby takes another look at the CRA's targeting of progressive charities for audits. And Hayden King writes that the Cons' new legislation imposing specific disclosure requirements on First Nations - like the similar Harper attack on unions - is aimed primarily at making collective action less effective. Meanwhile, any sense that corporate influence over (or returns from) public policy should similarly be tracked is of course nowhere to be found.

- Finally, Justin Garguilo offers a response to the theory that increased data collection and analysis is the lone secret to political success - pointing out that data itself means nothing if it doesn't serve a greater purpose.

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